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(c) N Gentilli

Top 5: Open Air Swim Spots in London

13 July 2017 Will Rathbone

There’s something about diving into an open air pool that makes you feel so alive. It’s one of the finest summer activities, and the feel of wind on your face and (relatively) fresh water on your skin is as close as you can get to the wild in our concrete jungle. Without further ado, here are our favourite, legal, open-air swimming spots in the city.

Brockwell Lido

Brockwell Lido is a bit of an icon in South London. It celebrated its 80th birthday over the weekend, and we’ve rarely seen an octogenarian in such rude health. The atmosphere is lively, the pool is a spacious 50m and the café is a tasty destination in its own right - we wholeheartedly recommend the veggie breakfast. Tucked away on the corner of Brockwell Park, this Lido is a charming local favourite.
 
Brockwell Lido can be found in Brockwell Park, SE24 0PA. It’s open every day, and it’s £6 for a swim, or less at the very start and end of the day.


Brockwell Lido © N Gentilli

 
Serpentine Lido

The only other lido to make it onto our list is probably London’s favourite – Serpentine Lido. Slap bang in the middle of Hyde Park, there’s something so ‘London’ about taking a dip in this snakelike (hence the name) pond. It’s the kind of activity that not only refreshes your body, but also your appreciation for our fair city.
 
Serpentine Lido can be found in Hyde Park, W2 2UH. It’s open 10am – 6pm, every day from June till August, and it’s £4.80 for a swim.
 
Hampstead Heath

Another firm favourite, Hampstead Heath’s three ponds offer two single-sex bathing areas and one for mixed bathing. These freshwater ponds are fed by the headwater springs of the River Fleet, which flows through King’s Cross before joining the Thames at Blackfriars Bridge, and gave Fleet Street it’s name. The view, the water and the people all add up to a thoroughly invigorating swim session.
 
Hampstead Heath Ponds, NW3 1BP, are open every day and it’s £2 for a swim.


Hampstead Heath Ponds. Image Credit: Richard Lea-Hair

 
London's Royal Docks

London's Royal Docks – comprising the Royal Albert Dock, Royal Victoria Dock and King George V Dock – are the largest enclosed docks in the world. In recent years they’ve opened up an area of the dock for swimming, and it’s a really special place to have a dip. There are separate areas for casual and competitive swimming, and courses for those who want to get a bit more confident in the water.
 
London’s Royal Docks Open Water Swimming can be found at 1 Dock Road, E16 1AG. It’s open Tue-Sun, April-September and it costs £8 for a swim.


Royal Docks, Image courtesy of London Royal Docks

 
West Reservoir Sports Centre

A fully repurposed reservoir in the heart of Stoke Newington, the West Reservoir is a wonderful place to go swimming. It’s interesting history includes the former filter house – now a café, which includes views of the old hydraulics in the main hall – and the former pumping station-turned-climbing centre. They have 85m of open water available for swimming, and it’s a pretty pro atmosphere – wetsuit is mandatory!
 
West Reservoir Sports Centre can be found in Stoke Newington, N4 2HA. It’s open Thursday, Saturday and Sunday and costs £10 for a swim.
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